Back to the future

16 November 2007

1900 Lohner-PorscheIt might not look like it, but this is the future: as exhibited by Porsche at this week’s LA Auto Show. It’s a 1900 Lohner-Porsche, and the German maker of sportscars and lumbering 4x4s wheeled it out to demonstrate that it has a longer pedigree in green vehicles than Toyota. So there.

The big drums on the front wheels were not brakes but hub-mounted electric motors. And in another echo of modern developments, the batteries weren’t much cop. A year later the Paris Auto Show witnessed a workaround: “The addition of a petrol combustion engine directly connected to an 80 volt dynamo – providing power for the electric drive system in the front wheels – created what is acknowledged as the first car with hybrid drive,” Porsche says.

What a shame that Porsche squandered this head start and concentrated instead on making sports cars with the engine in the least wise place possible for most of the subsequent century. (Perhaps at next year’s LA Auto Show Porsche could arrange a demonstration of how to successfully throw a hammer handle-first?) Had it evolved the Lohner-Porsche into something better instead of the Beetle into the 911, maybe the world would be a better place. A world without Cayennes, say. Hybrid or otherwise.

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